Things to do in Osaka Japan – Osaka is a very colorful city I find particularly enjoyable. It is, on various levels, quite different from all the other Japanese cities I have visited so far. In fact, the first striking aspect you will definitely notice is the friendliness and warmth of its inhabitants. I’m not saying that Japanese people outside Osaka are not nice; I’m saying that in Osaka, people are really cool and fun to be around.
Osaka is also my favorite city when it comes to Japanese cuisine. Osaka restaurants are so much cheaper than in Tokyo and yatais (street food stalls) are practically everywhere, selling takoyaki, the local culinary specialty.
I’ll tell you more about that later in this article but let’s start by looking for accommodation in Osaka.
Guest House Osaka Japan
If you’re on a budget and each and every yen you’re bringing counts, I recommend you try this very cheap inn. You can stay there for around 1000 yens a night ! Honestly, I don’t think you will find cheaper prices. I spent a week there myself and even though it wasn’t crazy-cosy, it was comfortable and clean enough for me. You’ll also get free access to a nice Japanese bath you will definitely enjoy at the end of the day.
That inn is also located within only 5 minutes from Shinsekai (I’ll talk about it further down the article), which is very convenient.
If you also plan on visiting Kyoto, I recommend staying in Osaka. It’s only 30 minutes by train from Osaka and hotels in Kyoto tend to be quite expensive.
Ryokan Osaka Japan
If you can afford better accommodation, you can stay at a ryokan to fully experience the authenticness of Japanese culture. Ryokan are famous for just that. Kaneyoshi Ryokan is one of the best in Osaka according to most reviews. You should book your room early enough though as it gets fully booked rather quickly. It’s also right in the heart of Dotonbori so great location nonetheless.
Now that you’ve decided where to stay, here’s my top 10 best places you should absolutely visit in Osaka.
1. Things to do in Osaka Japan – Shinsekai Street and Tsutentaku Tower
When I was in Osaka, I used to hang out a lot in Shinsekai. The road is right by the hotel I stayed in and I used to go there to eat at restaurants or to take a walk around and enjoy the festive mood. Here’s a foretaste of what’s waiting for you there (video in french):
Shinsekai streets are vibrant and lively, day and night. There’s also a breathtaking view of the Tsutenkaku tower.
2. Things to do in Osaka Japan – Tennoji Park and Keitakuen Garden
Let me take you now to Tennoji Park, which is not very far from Shinsekai. Tennoji Park is sort of the lungs of Osaka’s city center. I absolutely loved the Keitakuen Garden there.
You’ll have to pay to enter the garden but it only costs 150 yen which is a little more than a dollar. Keitakuen Garden is the perfect place to relax in a calm and serene environment.
I went there in May so the garden wasn’t really blooming. I guess it must be astounding during the cherry blossom in early Spring.
3. Things to do in Osaka Japan – Shi Tenno-ji Temple
When leaving Tennoji Park, you can walk up to the Shitennō-ji Temple entrance. The temple is one of the most well-know in Osaka. It’s a Buddhist temple that is one of the oldest in Japan; it was built in 593 actually! It is said that it is, in fact, the oldest officially administered temple in Japan, although it has been rebuilt a few times since.
The temple has a total of five entrances and the picture below shows the Gokuraku-mon west gate which is the main entrance.
As in the majority of Japanese Buddhist temples, you won’t miss the Niō, famous guardians of the Buddha.
The temple’s site is quite vast and has many differents buildings here and there. Shitennō-ji is definitely a must-visit site in Osaka.
4. Things to do in Osaka Japan – Kuromon Ichiba Market
Let’s keep walking northwards to the beautiful Kuromon Ichiba market. Osaka is a huge trade harbour in Japan. A lot of seafood products make their way through the harbour and are later distributed to the whole Kansai region.
The octopus is of course one of the symbols of city of Osaka; you’ll probably come across that quite often. By the way, the Osakan culinary specialty, those famous takoyaki I told you about are wheat balls stuffed with octopus.
You can even get very small grilled octopuses at the Kuromon Ichiba market.
I’m not sure if eating baby octopuses is in any way ethical but let’s not be judgemental here… 😀
5. Things to do in Osaka Japan – Universal Studio
Book here: Universal Studio Osaka
Universal Studio Osaka is the first Universal Studio outside the United States. It opened in 2001 and it’s definitely a must-see when you visit Osaka. It’s the second most visited them park in Japan after Tokyo Disneyland. Book your tickets in advance cause it’s often full, even in low season.
6. Things to do in Osaka Japan – Dotonbori Street
We’re finally in Dotombori, which is undoubtedly the most famous street in Osaka. You’ll find many good restaurants there that are not as expensive as those in Tokyo. What’s even more amazing in Dotombori are all the giant restaurant signs. Those are by the way what makes the street’s fame:
That’s right, people! To eat sushi, you have to use your fingers, not your chopsticks! 😀
Of course you’ll also find many yatai that sell takoyaki, yakitori and so on in Dotombori.
7. Things to do in Osaka Japan – Namba District
Now that you’re full, let’s party! Right next to Dotombori, Namba is the place to be at night. It has many bars and trendy nightclubs.
In Namba, you’ll also see the famous Running Man on a giant billboard by the Dotombori canal. Who’s that you say? At first, I thought he was a famous and successful Japanese athlete. As it turns out, the man on that billboard, often referred to as Glico Man, is not a real person. He’s rather a reference to the notorious Ezaki Glico confectionery company. Those who have already been to Japan probably know that Glico manufactures Pocky. The American equivalent has the same brand name and the English equivalent would be Mikado, as it is marketed almost all around Europe. Both products are manufactured by Glico.
I was a tiny bit disappointed by the meaning behind that billboard but then again, why would a confectioner have a running man as a brand emblem? I did some research and found out that Glico Man was a 300-meter runner and that wasn’t a coincidence.
When he first started, Ezaki Glico created caramel candy that provided 15 kcalories worth of energy. Can you guess how many calories you need to run 300 meters? Exactly. 15 kcalories.
Such a uniquely Japanese anecdote! These people have such an eye for details.
8. Things to do in Osaka Japan – Osaka Castle
Alongside Himeji Castle (which I’ll tell you about some other time), Osaka Castle is one of the most beautiful castles I have ever visited in Japan. You can walk around the castle for free but if you want to visit the museum inside, you would have to pay 600 yen, around 6 US dollars.
As someone who is passionate about the history of Japan, I really enjoyed visiting Osaka Castle and particularly liked these miniature samurai in battle.
How realistic do they look! It kind of reminded me of the Edo Museum in Tokyo. By the way, Osaka Castle is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
9. Things to do in Osaka Japan – Aquarium Kaiyukan
Book here: Kaiyukan Aquarium
Kaiyukan Aquarium is simply the largest aquarium in the world! You will find there 15 huge tanks filled with aquatic animals including whale sharks, penguins, dolphins and so on… It’s like visiting the Pacific ocean but without getting wet. 🙂 To make the best of your tour, keep 2 to 3 hours for your visit of the Kaiyukan Aquarium.
10. Things to do in Osaka Japan – Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine
The Sumiyoshi Taisha is a shinto sanctuary located in south Osaka. It is dedicated to the Sumiyoshi Okami, the great gods of Sumiyoshi.
You will not miss its peculiar architecture; there’s a fork-shaped finial on the roof actually.
Bonus 1. Things to do in Osaka Japan – Ramen Museum Momofuku Ando
Let me wrap this top 10 up on a humorous note with this one of a kind museum: the instant ramen museum! Which is open to all visitors, for free. I didn’t get the chance to visit it so I’ll let Aida from Allo Maman Tout Va Bien tell you how it went for her and what’s in there for you : Ramen Museum.
Bonus 2. Things to do in Osaka Japan – Minoh Waterfalls
I could leave you guys with 11 places to visit in Osaka without mentioning the amazing Minoh waterfalls. To go there, you would have to go first to Minoo train station which is 30 minutes away from Osaka. Then you would walk along a beautiful river during approximately one hour to finally see the falls. Believe me, it’s worth the visit!
I hope you liked reading this article and that it will help you plan your own trip to Osaka.
If you’re thinking of other places you loved in Osaka that did not make it to this list, please share them in the comment section below. You’ll just give me more reasons to go back to Osaka! 😀